Eww, I think I ate a vegetable!

Date - March 13, 2014 / Author - Cara Toomey / Category - Uncategorized

“I’m not eating that.”  “That is not the same kind of chicken nugget my mom gives me.” “Ewww, I think I ate a vegetable!” “I only eat mac and cheese.” “You didn’t make it right!” Do any of these sound familiar? If so, you may be living with a picky eater. Many families are living with one, or more picky eaters. Let’s face it, knowing what to feed your children is only half the battle, getting them to eat that food, is a totally different type of battle. Some might say it is a full on war of sorts.

I don’t have Children yet, but I hear about my friends’ struggles with their children’s eating habits. They lament their children’s self imposed limited diet of pancakes, hot dogs, or whatever food item they have deemed acceptable for the moment. I’ve even had one friend warn me that “Chicken nuggets are an evil, evil food that lure children in. Never give them to your (future) child,” she warned “or they will never eat anything else.” She said this jokingly, but it is a real issue that people struggle with everyday. Parents wrestle with giving into their children’s limited choices- just so their child will eat SOMETHING,  knowing that the food choice they gave into may not be the most healthy option. Parents want to ensure their child’s body has proper nutrition to grow and mature, but also don’t want them to go hungry. The problem is figuring out how to get them to eat and try those healthy options and enjoy a variety of foods in a way that doesn’t push them away from doing just that.


The academy of nutrition and dietetics has a few tips on how to encourage a healthy relationship with food as youpicky-eaters-jpgr child grows.

  • Give them words to describe food like crunchy, smooth, sweet. Make it a game, ask if it tastes like other things they have tried
  • avoid tying food to any sort of approval
  • Set an example – always put a variety of food on your plate.
  • Make it fun! make things small, add sauces, make plates colorful, cut, or present food in fun shapes!
  • Have kids get involved with food ! Plant a garden, have kids help choose the dinner menu, have them help pick the vegetables and fruits to add to the cart when you go to the grocery store or farmers market, give them some age appropriate tasks to help with in the kitchen. Anything you can do to help them feel ownership in the meal will make them more willing and able to eat it.
  • Don’t assume they won’t like something – Just because its not something we generally think of as “kid friendly” doesn’t mean they won’t like it. Give them whatever you are having, and let them make their own opinions.
  • They need not finish, but enforce a one bite rule. research shows that it takes being exposed 8-10 times before a food is accepted.
  • When talking about the benefits of food, don’t just tell them it’s “healthy” tell them how it can help them grow taller stronger, and have energy to go play soccer, or play with the dog outside.

The list above is certainly not exhaustive. I think trying a variety of different approaches over a period of time will hopefully yield one which works for your family. Also keep in mind that children grow in spurts. Sometimes, they may not eat as much one day, but make up for it later.

The last thing I will mention is patience. As with many things in parenting, meal times can be a test of patience. Changes will not happen overnight. It is important to try and keep this in mind, and positively reinforce when your children do try new foods and expand their palette.

There are a few other  tips from University of California Medical Center  which may also help you find ways to help your picky eater open up a little bit.

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